Women’s Steeplechase: Yuliya Zaripova Looks For Gold Medal Number Three – Can An American Make The Final?

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Editor’s Note: Since this preview was written, it has come out that Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi has withdrawn with injury and Kenya’s Lidya Chepkuriui was in fact selected for the Kenyan team. Go here for official start list.

by LetsRun.com
August 5, 2013

Those of you that come to LetsRun.com regularly already know we have already predicted the winner of the 2013 women’s steeplechase at the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Moscow.

Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova is the HEAVY favorite in our minds. She won Worlds in 2011, won the Olympics last year and generally just wins. Since the start of 2009, the lightly-raced Zaripova has finished 16 steeples (ignoring heats) and won 14 of them. You’d be foolish to bet against that 87.5% winning percentage, particularly when she’ll be a darling of the Russian crowd.

Yes, we know she’s only run one steeple all year – a modest 9:28.00 win at the World University Games. But she ran the 1,500 at the Russian Champs just for fun and won that in 4:02.56 on July 25th. That’s proof to us that she’s in great shape and we don’t see how she loses.

The heavy favorite likes gold necklaces

If she does somehow lose, we think the winner will be one of two people, Morocco’s Tunisia’s  Habiba Ghribi or Kenya’s Milcah Chemos.

Ghribi won silver both in 2011 and 2012 but she’s 0-for-5 in her career against Zaripova and never come within a second of her in her life. She’d need a big breakthrough to emerge as the winner and there is no reason to believe that’s going to come in Moscow. That being said, we have no idea what type of shape Ghribi is in as the 29-year-old ran 9:22.20 for seventh at the beginning of May in Doha but hasn’t raced since. Of course, last year she went into the Olympics with only one modest steeple under her belt – a 9:28.81 – and she ended up getting silver in 9:08.37. But the difference between last year and this year is Ghribi’s pre-championships race last year came in July, not early May.

At 9:14.17, Chemos has the best seasonal best time of anyone in Moscow (Kenya’s Lydia Chepkurui, who is the world leader at 9;13.17 didn’t make the Kenyan team). Chemos is the face of the steeple on the Diamond League circuit as she’s won the vast majority of the women’s DL steeple held in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. She’s picked up a staggering 15 DL victories during that time frame, winning $150,000 in the process. This year, after an opening season loss in Shanghai, she’s won all of her other races (Rome, Ostrava, Birmingham, Monaco and Nairobi).

The rap on Chemos is that she underperforms at the championships but we’re not really sure that’s true. She earned bronze in 2009 and 2011. What really happens is two people who don’t run the DL circuit, Zaripova and Ghribi, show up and Chemos is suddenly fighting for 3rd, not first (Chemos has beaten Zaripova just twice in 9 career meetings). Last year, Chemos missed third by .04. So yes, she lost to Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa, someone she normally beats on the DL circuit, but by just .04.

Assefa is a medal contender here as well, but in her two most recent steeples she finished behind Chemos in Rome on June 30th and lost to fellow Ethiopian Hiwot Ayalew in Lausanne on July 4th. That being said, she’s very consistent as she’s finished 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in her five races this year.

Quick Take #1: For a lot of events like the men’s 800 or women’s 800, a lot of the major players from the 2012 Olympics are missing. But in the steeple, it’s basically the exact same characters as last year. Take a look at the top 5 finishers in the Olympics last year. They are the top 5 contenders again this year:

Top 5 Finishers In 2012 Olympic Women’s Steeple
1 Yuliya Zaripova RUS 9:06.72 (PR)
2 Habiba Ghribi TUN 9:08.37 (NR)
3 Sofia Assefa ETH 9:09.84
4 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KEN 9:09.88
5 Hiwot Ayalew ETH 9:12.98
6 Etenesh Diro ETH 9:19.89 (PR)

Can Kipp make the final?

QT #2: What about the Americans, you say?

There are three entrants in Moscow. We list them below with their 2013 world rank based on time:

23 Shalaya Kipp 9:37.23
30 Nicole Bush 9:39.36
56 Ashley Higginson 9:45.83

As you can tell from those stats, they have no shot at medalling, but it’s always a great honor to represent the US at the highest level of competition and that’s something Nicole Bush and Ashley Higginson are doing for the first time. Bush very much deserves it as she broke her foot at USAs in 2009 when the officials put the barrier at a wrong height, and battling back from that was far from easy. Higginson makes it and she’s in law school. Very impressive.

We think one of them, particularly Kipp, might actually make the final. Kipp is only ranked #23 on the year but they took 15 to the finals at the Olympics last year and the lowest she’ll be seeded coming in based on 2013 seasonal best time is 15th once you take out all of the people ahead of her who didn’t qualify.

Kipp started her season slowly this year.She only opened in 9:52 in April this year versus 9:43 last year and she only made the USA final on time. But somehow she got on the team and without much fanfare she has really turned things around. The 9:37.23 that she ran in Monaco on July 19th is the second best time of her career and very close to her 9:35.73 PR.


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